Thus silence has been imposed on the learned; and as for those who ran to the call of science, as you say, great terror has been inspired in them.
BY THE MIDDLE OF the 17th century the Iberian peninsula was moving onward only in desolation. Decline hung in the emptying fields and the atrophying cities. Where had it all gone wrong? With the secession of the Dutch United Provinces from Spain in 1568? At the death of the heirless Portuguese King Sebastian in a pointless war in Morocco in 1578? During the failed Armada launched from both countries in 1588? With the temporary loss of parts of Brazil to the Dutch from the 1620s to the 1650s? The list lengthened into the second half of the 17th century with no respite.
Eventually, Spain had to acknowledge its limitations. After twenty-eight years of conflict Portugal achieved separation from Spain in 1668 but lasting damage had been done to both countries and their empires. Although Portugal had managed to recover Angola (1648), São Tome (1649) and Pernambuco in Brazil (1654) from the Dutch, its empire in the Estado da Índia was irreparably damaged. Bombay (Bom Baia) was transferred to English control in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganca with her marriage to Charles II, and the chain of ports from Mombasa to Mozambique Island in east Africa would come under severe attack from the empire of Oman from 1650 onward. By 1700 Portuguese power in east Africa north of Mozambique was finished.1
For Spain, meanwhile, control of Portugal and its colonies had gone, and in 1648 the independence of the United Provinces was acknowledged. The Spanish population was falling and the state effectively bankrupt. Spain’s American colonies were declining in importance with the rise of North America. The last Spanish king of the 17th century, Charles II, was both physically and mentally disabled, drooled frequently, and proved to be impotent; his death led to the disastrous War of the Spanish Succession.
What we are looking at here is the decline of imperial powers which had once stretched around the globe. In these circumstances, the inquisitorial bureaucracy which we have observed, bedevilled by minutiae which by any objective standards are meaningless, seems incomprehensible. Yet the emphasis on the steady accumulation of pieces of paper betrays a mentality unable to deal with the reality before it: the reality was of an empire and society in precipitous decline: unable to face it, the inquisitorial mentality took refuge in useless documents designed to safeguard the honour and nobility of the nation.
In such circumstances opinions which diverged from the chosen picture of reality were unwelcome. The truth perhaps hurts most – and provokes most anger in – those who are increasingly distant from it. Thus in Spain in particular the broad current of European thought groping towards the Enlightenment in the latter 17th century was unpalatable and had to be prevented from polluting the nation. This movement of scientific inquiry, raised on the shoulders of Bacon, Descartes, Locke and Spinoza, was a direct challenge to the inquisitorial world view. The Inquisition could sense from afar that here was an ideology which could deal it a mortal blow in a way that the conversos and the moriscos never had.
The Inquisition was right to be suspicious, for some of the more important roots of this ideology did indeed penetrate back to the very people whom the inquisitors had pursued remorselessly for so long, the conversos. The development of the scientific world view was in fact deeply connected with the waves of persecution which the Inquisition had first unleashed in Spain at the end of the 15th century, 200 years before this era of decline.
Zaragoza 1485 to Bordeaux 1592
ON THE LAST DAY of February in 1533 a son was born to Pierre Eyquem and Antoinette Lopez in south-west France. Eyquem was a prominent local dignitary who would later be mayor of Bordeaux and a councillor at Court in Périgeux. The name Lopez was, however, less obviously French. This is not the first time that we have met it in our story, however, for Antoinette Lopez’s family had migrated across the border to France during the first onslaught of the Spanish Inquisition, with the persecutions that afflicted Zaragoza in 1486 after the assassination of Inquisitor Pedro de Arbues.*1 Midnight assassinations, autos burning in the enclosed streets of the city, an atmosphere of paranoia and vengeance; here lay some of the more unexpected origins of the modern scientific world view.
Antoinette Lopez’s father had been called Pierre Lopez de Villanueva. When the autos tore into the converso community of Zaragoza in the late 15th century many including Pierre fled to France, but not all members of the family were as fortunate. His father, Micer Pablo Lopez de Villanueva, and his father’s father, Juan Fernando Lopez de Villanueva, were both burnt in the autos in Zaragoza which followed the sensational assassination of Arbúes.2 It is worth pausing for a moment to imagine the mindset which the refugees must have taken with them. These were the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who had, often voluntarily, left the Jewish faith for Christianity.*2 They had then been rejected by their new religious community, and persecuted for their origins. It would be surprising if some of these people had not begun to doubt the validity of all religions. Certainly, it was precisely such scepticism which was implanted in the family of the Lopez de Villanueva.
The son born to Pierre Eyquem and Antoinette Lopez in February 1533 became known to the world as Michel de Montaigne. Montaigne, in the view of some philosophers today, was the central figure in the evolution of modern sceptical philosophy, a forerunnerto Descartes and Hume and the rise of the scientific world view.3 In the 16th century he was the most eloquent champion of a brand of thinking known as Pyrrhonian scepticism, which held that there was never enough evidence to determine whether knowledge was possible, hence all judgment should be suspended4 – a sort of agnosticism as to whether anything could ever be known.5
These ideas were reformulated by Montaigne and advanced in his famous Essays, still read today for their scope, wit and literary style. Many of the views put forward in the Essays were testament to Montaigne’s belief in the validity of individual ideas and opinions. In his essay on the education of children, he noted that he was putting forward ‘my humours and opinions: I give them because they are what I believe, not because they are what everyone should believe’.6 His understanding of the gulfs that separate different views of the world and how each can appear valid to those that hold them was summarized in his statement in his famous essay on cannibals that ‘people call barbarous that which is foreign to them’.7
It is the relevance of insights such as these even today, over 400 years after their formulation, which reveals Montaigne’s innovativeness to his contemporaries. It is worth reflecting on the contrast between his belief in the essential independence of thought and expression and the ideology of the institution which had persecuted some of his ancestors in Zaragoza. As far as the Inquisition was concerned, it was precisely independence of thought and belief that was most dangerous and in need of punishment; should it therefore surprise us if one of the descendants of its victims championed the very ideas which the Inquisition found most dangerous?
This does not mean that Montaigne saw his Essays as deliberate challenges to the Inquisition or the ideology that lay behind it. One must be clear from the outset that Montaigne was not brought up as a crypto-Jew. While his mother’s father came from Zaragoza, his mother’s mother Honorette Dupuy was from an old Gascon Catholic family,8 and Antoinette was brought up as a Protestant.9 Montaigne himself was raised, like his father, to be a Catholic, but quickly became fascinated by both Reformation and Counter-Reformation thought. One must acknowledge this Christian background, but one must also recognize that Montaigne’s converso background places some of his ideas in an intriguing perspective.
One idea to emerge from Montaigne was his emphasis on the distance between intention and action. Like a 16th-century Freud, Montaigne was aware that the two were quite different things. As he put it at one point, ‘deeds must go with words . . . the real mirror of our ideas are the courses of our lives’.10 One might say, for example, all kinds of beautiful things about loving one’s neighbour and charity, and the need to sow peace and harmony in troubled parts of the world, but if one spent one’s life waging war against people and sowing enmities among them it was difficult to argue that love and charity were one’s deepest intentions; or as Montaigne noted in his essay on freedom of conscience, ‘it is very common to see very good intentions, if they are conducted without moderation, drive men to produce very vicious results’.11
One sees here Montaigne’s despair at the role of passion in the lives of human beings and his emphasis on moderation. His most influential essay on scepticism is called the Apology of Raimond Sebond, and in it Montaigne stresses that religion should not be guided by passion but by faith. There is, he wrote, ‘nowhere such excellent an hostility as a Christian hostility. Our zeal wreaks marvels, when it bolsters our tendency towards hatred, cruelty, ambition, avarice, detraction, rebellion . . . Our religion is supposed to be made to extirpate vices; but it conceals, nourishes and incites them.’12 Again, the tension between intention and action is evident, as is Montaigne’s conviction that true religion should not be guided by passion, which only leads people astray.
In the Apology of Raimond Sebond Montaigne attacks the idea of Christian universality, both by pointing to the irrational passions which so often underlie religion, and by arguing for relativism. ‘We receive our religion in our own way and through our own hands, and no differently from the way in which other religions are received . . . [in other circumstances] another religion, other witnesses, similar promises and threats could in the same way imprint in us a contrary belief . . . we are Christians in the same way that we are Périgordins or Germans.’13 He argues that, rather than using our inherently flawed reasoning to reach God, simple faith is the way forward for a ‘good man [homme de bien]’,14 lest there be an attempt to subject the divine power to the legal interpretations of men.15 This philosophy is called fideism.
The key to the argument is Montaigne’s scepticism.16 Such scepticism was in fact what saved Montaigne’s reputation in the eyes of religious orthodoxy, for it was used by the Counter-Reformation – following the argument advanced by Montaigne – to argue that faith alone was the route to salvation. The possibility of absolute scepticism was used by Catholic theologians to engage Calvinists in particular in debates which ended up leading them towards a total scepticism which made their own viewpoint meaningless – and left faith in dogma as a rational position.17
At the same time, however, this development of an agnosticism of knowledge was the beginning of a long road. It would be taken up enthusiastically by philosophers and champions of science such as Francis Bacon and Galileo*3 to push Europe towards the scientific outlook which, in the 18th-century Enlightenment, would come to challenge decisively the theological view of the world held by institutions like the Inquisition. Montaigne’s version of Pyrrhonian scepticism was one of the most important sources of a movement which would eventually lead all branches of knowledge into a sceptical crisis from which the modern scientific outlook would emerge.18 In the 18th century, as we shall see, it was this outlook which would become the principal bugbear of the Inquisition as it decayed towards extinction.
It is worth pausing for a moment to recall the way in which both conversos and moriscos were hardened into heresy by the persecution directed at them. These were cases, as we have seen, of the Inquisition at some level creating the heresy which it proceeded to persecute and which it saw as its greatest threat. In the case of the Enlightenment a comparable process was at work, as we see in the case of Montaigne. The circumstances created by the Inquisition gave rise to the forces which rebelled against it through a new ideology: the scientific world view.
For while Montaigne was no crypto-Jew, he was aware of his background. He wrote a long exposition of the history of the Jews of Spain in an essay dealing ostensibly with the attachment which some people have towards dying, with his excursus on the history of the Jews and conversos being much the longest example in this essay.19 The first publisher of his Essays, Simón Millanges, was the son of a converso, and the book was printed on 1 March 1580, the date of the Jewish festival of Purim that year. Purim was the most symbolic festival for those conversos who were crypto-Jews for it deals with keeping to the Jewish faith in times of oppression.*4 Montaigne declared in his introduction that the ‘date [of publication] was intentionally chosen, to permit companions to understand its hidden message’.20 Here is undeniable evidence of converso influence in Montaigne’s thought in spite of the fact that only one of his grandparents had indeed been converso.
This statement implies that Montaigne’s real beliefs were hidden behind outward opinions and suggests contentions such as that in the Apology of Raimond Sebond, ‘The pest of mankind is the opinion of knowledge. This is why ignorance is so enjoined to us by our religion as a vital element in our belief’,21 while supposedly supporting his fideism, were intended as irony. For conversos and descendants of conversos such as Montaigne the use of ‘dual language and equivocation’ had become an accepted means of concealing subversive opinions behind those that were outwardly acceptable.22 This was something which Montaigne, a voracious reader, would have known all too well, hiding the dynamite which was his scepticism behind the fac¸ade of his greater devotion to faith which he pretended to derive from it.23 This was a tactic which would be employed in an analogous context by Charles Darwin in his 1859 publication of Origin of Species.
When one considers this, the continual exhortations in Montaigne’s Essays towards relativism and against the role of the passions in religion, and his emphasis on the importance of measuring people by actions and not words, it is difficult not to conclude that the history of his maternal ancestors in Zaragoza must have had at least some impact on the evolution of his philosophy.24 By its very persecution, the Inquisition fostered an atmosphere in which those it persecuted came to question all received truths. In such an atmosphere a new ideology would develop, one which was sceptical of all claims to divine right and justice, and which would herald the modern age – the very modern age which would ultimately bring the Inquisition down.
IT IS INSTRUCTIVE to read accounts of how the attentions of the Inquisition affected the attitudes of converses and moriscos towards religion. In both cases, while no doubt some had their faith in their ancestral Islamic or Jewish creed strengthened, as they fled to North Africa (if morisco) or the Ottoman empire (if converse), those who remained in Portugal and Spain were forced into a double life which often turned them towards a sceptical outlook.
Living as a morisco often required a sort of ambiguous, double existence. The reality for some was summed up by an Old Christian in the town of Daimiel in Castile in the 1530s, who said to the morisco Lope Cambil, ‘When you were Muslims, you always told the truth, but now you never do’.25 Meanwhile, as we saw from the morisco uprising in Andalusia 1568–70, some of what moriscos did was hardly consonant with Islamic practice.*5
Scepticism was, however, more apparent among converses. A typical converse view which was frequently denounced to the inquisitors was that ‘there was nothing more to existence than being born and dying’.26 The social position of these converts encouraged scepticism. As the bishop of Porto Alegre (Brazil) put it in the 16th century, these people, ‘pretending to be Christians, are neither Jews nor Christians’.27 The lack of full instruction in either religion could often lead towards atheism.28
An ambiguous religious outlook was often married to geographical instability. Many conversos travelled constantly around both Europe and the colonies in Africa, America and Asia, as we have seen with the Carvajal family. These wanderings gave them a position between different worlds and, together with their religious ambiguity, created an environment in which they often found it impossible to adopt any one particular mindset, or religion, as entirely their own.29
Such feelings are easy to understand today in our equally fragmentary lives. Where one can freely enter so many different contexts and worlds, morality comes more and more to seem like a child of custom. Not for nothing did a traveller exclaim in the early 17th century, ‘For who would have thought, that I who had seene so many sexs [sic: sects] and varieties of Religion, dispersed over the face of the earth, could have stucke fast to any Religion at all’.30 Thus, with their perennial travelling and the perennial insecurity that was their lot, did the conversos become prototypes for the modern sceptic.31 The conversos were permanent travellers because the persecutions of the Inquisition made them feel unsafe in any part of the Iberian world, Europe or the colonies. Scepticism was therefore not just a result of the memory of persecution, but also originated from the social condition which had become the lot of the conversos. In this situation, Michel de Montaigne was not to be the only converso descendant to develop a sceptical philosophy which would directly challenge the ideology of the Inquisition.
Montaigne studied for seven years at the Collége de Guyenne in Bordeaux. It had perhaps been here that converso intellectual influence had been brought most strongly to bear, for this important educational establishment had been founded in 1533 by the Portuguese converso André de Gouveia, who brought many other conversos to the faculty. In 1547 Gouveia was replaced by another converso, Jean Gelida, the tutor of Montaigne and, twenty years later, of another converso student who was to be almost as important in the development of scepticism.32 This was the Portuguese doctor Francisco Sanches, whose book That Nothing Is Known*6 would dovetail with Montaigne’s views and lead directly to the ideas of Descartes and Spinoza.
Sanches was born in northern Portugal in 1551. Along with many Portuguese conversos of the time, his family moved to Bordeaux in 1562 as the attacks of the Inquisition on Portuguese converso families became ever stronger. Like his father Sanches trained as a doctor and spent most of his life in Toulouse. Here he held the university chairs of medicine and philosophy and lived as a practising and devout Christian – so much so that his two sons became priests.33
In his book – published in Lyon in 1581 – Sanches proclaimed time and again his complete scepticism. The first line of his book declares, ‘I do not know even this one thing, namely that I know nothing’,34 an assertion repeated in various guises throughout the book. From this starting point Sanches proceeded to demolish the Aristotelian theories of logic and science that had come to dominate scholastic circles, arguing that it was impossible to have certain or perfect knowledge of the rational world. This led Sanches to a very early form of empiricism in which he argued that direct study and verification of physical phenomena were the only paths to knowledge of the natural world.35 As he wrote, challengingly, in his introduction, ‘Let them be deceived who wish to be deceived; it is not for them I write, so they need not read my works . . . I would address myself to those who, “not bound by the oath of fidelity to any master’s words”, assess the facts for themselves, under the guidance of sense-perception and reason’.36
Montaigne and Sanches were between them, as one leading scholar has put it, ‘responsible for a re-examination of old claims to knowledge by thinkers in the seventeenth century’.37 They were the two philosophers to make ‘a major contribution to the diffusion of sceptical ideas [in the sixteenth century]’.38 Moreover, Sanches’s reading of Aristotle was heavily indebted to the humanist Joan-Lluis Vives, and in particular to Vives’s book De Disciplinis.39 Vives had been born in Valencia in 1493 and studied in Italy before settling in Bruges until his death in 1540. He was a friend of Erasmus and Thomas More and a prominent figure in the humanist movement sweeping Europe;40 perhaps it will come as no surprise to learn that, like Montaigne and Sanches, Vives was aconverso.
Joan-Lluis Vives had direct personal experience of the Inquisition and its methods. His great-grandfather Pau Vives had been condemned in one of the very first autos of the new Inquisition, in Valencia in 1482.41 Then in 1500 the Inquisition had uncovered a secret synagogue in the house of his grandfather Miguel where his father Lluis had been implicated in heretical ceremonies. This time the family members were reconciled, but in 1522 the Inquisition struck again, arresting his father Lluis and four other relatives. His father was burnt at an auto in 1524, together with his uncle Joan Mac¸ana and effigies of his mother Blanquina March (who had died in 1508), and of his great-aunt.42
Some have argued that the converso background of Vives is testament precisely to the lack of a specifically converso ideology influencing intellectual ideas in the 16th century.43 Vives, certainly, was no crypto-Jew, yet as we have seen, he influenced Sanches in his powerful development of a sceptical philosophy to match the scepticism of which individual conversos were often accused. And, like Montaigne and Sanches, Vives held that absolute truth could not be known by the human mind, believing that the sceptic’s aim should be to see whether or not trustworthy – if not entirely accurate – knowledge could be obtained.44 At one point he wrote, ‘We are ignorant of the beginning, development and causes of every single thing’.45
Where the impact of the Inquisition on Vives’s philosophy can best be traced, however, is that like Montaigne and Sanches he was a devoted champion of the priority of reason.46 While, unlike Montaigne and Sanches, he favoured reaching probable forms of truth rather than abandoning the conceit of knowledge altogether, like them he feared the triumph of passion over reason. If reason was abandoned, he wrote, the danger was that ‘we will fall into absurd fictions and end up pursuing fickle dreams instead of wise doctrines’.47 The type of fickle dreams he had in mind was revealed in a letter which he wrote to his friend Erasmus in January 1524 in which he described his hope that the popularity of Erasmus in Spain might lead the Spaniards ‘to soften and to dismantle certain barbarous conceptions of life, conceptions with which these penetrating but uneducated and inhumane spirits are imbued’.48 It is worth bearing in mind that it was in January 1524 that Vives’s father Lluis was incarcerated in the inquisitorial jail prior to being burnt to death; the ‘barbarous conceptions of life’ which he feared need no further explanation.
Here a pattern begins to emerge, surely, in the origins of the sceptical philosophy that came to dominate the Western tradition during the Enlightenment. Persecution, it turns out, could not only lead to a general current of scepticism among conversos in their travels around the world; it could also lead the intellectuals among them to formulate ideas which assisted in the overthrow of all received certainties. These figures preached scepticism and the need to obtain knowledge by observation of the natural world – what became known as scientific experiment. It was the very experience of persecution which led to these intellectuals developing a concrete ideology which, between the 16th and the 18th centuries, helped along with many others to shatter the certainties upon which the ideology of the Inquisition was based.
The influence of this first generation of converso sceptics was far-reaching. Sanches’s That Nothing Is Known was reprinted in Frankfurt in 161849 and may have been read by René Descartes – in Frankfurt in 1619 – as he worked his way towards writing his famous work on scepticism, Discourse on Method.50 Descartes was in turn studied by Baruch Spinoza, a Jew from Amsterdam whose family had previously been conversos and had moved to Holland to be able to live as Jews.51 Spinoza rejected Judaism and developed a form of scientific empiricism and a metaphysical system which was essentially Godless and prefigured some of the Enlightenment ideas which so bedevilled the Inquisition in the 18th century. Spinoza’s ideas sprang from the strong current ofconversoscepticism, and there were many ways in which Spinoza reformulated both converso literary styles and ideas.52
It would be a mistake to take these ideas too far. No one can say that all or even most of the credit or blame for the rise of sceptical philosophy should be laid at the door of the conversos. But the fact that perhaps the three most important sceptics of the 16th century – Montaigne, Sanches and Vives – were all from families with experience of the Inquisition, and that the champion of a Godless world view where knowledge was obtained by scientific experiment in the 17th century – Spinoza – also came from this background is suggestive.
As we saw in the last chapter, the corruption of the Inquisition at home led to decay in the very things it wished to preserve. Abroad, its history of persecution led to the development of philosophies which would further undermine it. Every extreme action, perhaps, provokes an extreme reaction. And thus like every authoritarian institution or government did the Inquisition possess the seeds of the tendencies which would destroy it.
IN 1499 A PLAY was written which, together with Cervantes’s Don Quixote, has widely been hailed as one of the masterpieces of Spanish literature. The play is called La Celestina, and deals with the doomed love of a young rake called Calisto. Calisto loves a noble lady called Melibea, but loves her in despair as he is not of her station. However, Calisto’s servant Sempronio introduces him to a local procuress called Celestina, who specializes in the arcane (but important) art of restoring maidenheads to ‘virgins’. Celestina lures Melibea towards Calisto, but the young gallant dies falling off a ladder while leaving Melibea’s house in the dark, and his bereft lover responds by killing herself. Replace the impossibility of bridging snobbery with the impossibility of reconciling feuding noble houses, and here is much of the plot of Romeo and Juliet a century before Shakespeare.
In La Celestina the storyline combines beautiful disquisitions on many fine human emotions with some extremely powerful writing. A feature of the text, however, is the existence of phrases which could also convey an inquisitorial meaning. In the opening scene Calisto declares to Sempronio that ‘the flame which kills one soul is bigger than that which burnt a hundred thousand bodies’.53 This flame, for Calisto, is his love for Melibea, but when he is challenged by Sempronio as persevering with something bad, Calisto responds, ‘You know little about steadfastness’, to which Sempronio answers, ‘Perseverance in sin is not constancy, but is called stubbornness and pertinacity in my country’.54 When considering an inquisitorial subtext here, one must bear in mind that heretics condemned to burn were called pertinaz in the language of the Inquisition.
Another servant, Parmeno, tells Calisto that ‘you lost the name of a free man when you allowed your will to become captive’55 (as the conversos had become captives to inquisitorial jurisdiction when they had converted to Christianity). When Celestina describes the suffering of Parmeno’s mother, who has been processed in an auto for witchcraft, she relates how ‘with false witnesses and severe tortures they made her confess what she had never done’56 and how she had been told by a priest that ‘the Holy Scripture held that the fortunate were those who suffered persecution in the name of justice, and that they would inherit the kingdom of Heaven’.57
Such clear instances of an inquisitorial subtext do not occur on every page of La Celestina, but they are undoubtedly present, although they should not be used as the only prism through which to interpret the play.58 But they are an important element of its context, and it will by now come as no surprise to learn that the author of La Celestina, Fernando de Rojas, was born in Castile in around 1476 to a converso family. When he was ten years old, in 1486, his future father-in-law was reconciled by the Inquisition, while his father-in-law’s parents were exhumed and their bodily remains burnt.59 Having written the play as a young man, Rojas became an upstanding figure in society, a barrister, and even acted in some inquisitorial trials, but when one reads some of the passages of La Celestina there can be little doubt that Rojas’s converso background was one of the emotional sources for the play.
There were large numbers of conversos among the most important writers of golden age Spain. The very first picaresque novel, Lazarillo de Tormes, written in 1554 by an anonymous author and depicting Spanish society from the perspective of an individual at its bottom, is known to have been written by a converso,60 as was the great poetry of Luis de Góngora.61 Even Cervantes had some converso ancestry, and some historians have gone as far as to suggest from the sort of food that he ate that Don Quixote himself was supposed to be a converso.
Just as there is no coincidence in the fact that some of the most important early sceptics were conversos, so there is no coincidence about the prevalence of conversos among the most important Spanish dramatists, poets and novelists of the 16th century. The dissonance which existed between the converso individual and his ambiguous place in society created an alienation which was the starting point for the literature of the golden age, and indeed for the alienation at the heart of all modern literature.62
There were, it is true, other reasons for the predominance of conversos in writing and philosophy. Their Jewish ancestors had come to Christian Spain in the first place from the far more cultivated Muslim kingdom of Al-Andalus; there they had inherited a tradition of scholarship and literature unavailable to the militaristic Christians, for whom excessive intellectual activity would have obstructed the reconquest.63 This inevitably meant that a disproportionate number of thinkers and writers were conversos, but it also meant that thinking and writing came to be associated with heresy.
The impact of this began to be felt in the 16th century, when the converso class as a whole gained a reputation for being clever (agudos). When the converso bishop of Granada and confessor of Queen Isabella, Fernando de Talavera, tried to convert the Jews, one chronicler wrote, he found that ‘as [the Jews] are naturally clever and can quote the Holy Scripture so readily, they often argued against what was preached to them’64 whereas most people apparently simply accepted it. In another case a teacher at the University of Salamanca in 1572 was held to descend from conversos simply because ‘[his father and uncles] were all very clever’.65
The association of intelligence and independence of thinking with conversos and thus with heresy began with the persecution of the followers of Erasmus in the 1530s, when, as we saw in Chapter 5, large numbers of intellectuals were arrested for deviance from the orthodoxy. Rodrigo de Manrique, the son of Inquisitor-General Alonso Manrique, who was sidelined in those years, described the situation eloquently in a letter to Joan-Lluis Vives of 9 December 1533 after the arrest of the well-regarded humanist Juan de Vergara:
When I consider the distinction of his spirit, his superior erudition and (what I value most) his irreproachable conduct, I feel great sadness that some great wrong may be done to this excellent man. Thinking of the intervention of those who have laid impudent calumnies at his door, I tremble at the thought that he has fallen into the hands of men lacking in dignity and culture who hate men of value, and who think they are doing a good and pious work in making wise men disappear for the sake of just one word, or because of a joke. What you say is right: our country is a land of envy and arrogance; you could add: of barbarity. Because it is well understood there that one cannot possess a certain degree of culture without being full of heresy, error and converso stains. Thus silence has been imposed on the learned; and as for those who ran to the call of science, as you say, great terror has been inspired in them.66
Historians who favour the general role of the Inquisition in the formation of Spanish society have often tried to exonerate it from this charge of being ‘anti-knowledge’,67 yet in the protracted 18th-century debates on the issue the defenders of the Inquisition cited works of theological science rather than natural science in their arguments. The general attitude of the inquisitorial hierarchy towards individual talent and scientific advances can be seen in several cases: that of Manuel de Tovar Olvera, a Spaniard accused in Mexico around 1660 of having a pact with the devil because he was able to control a herd of mares which usually kept ten or eleven men busy;68 or the extraordinary case in the early 18th century when the Inquisition in Lima proceeded against a pilot simply because he had guided a ship from Callao (the port for Lima) to Valparaíso in Chile in less than half the previous record time.69
It is cases like this that confirm the validity of the view of the great historian H.C. Lea on the Inquisition: ‘The real importance of the Inquisition is not so much in the awful solemnities of the autos-da-fé, or in the cases of a few celebrated victims, as in the silent influence exercised by its incessant and secret labours among the mass of the people and the limitations which it placed on the Spanish intellect’.70 The pursuit by the Inquisition of Erasmian intellectuals stifled the development of ideas, and the lack of informed debate about the great scientific issues of the day became a factor in the decadence which engulfed the world south of the Pyrenees in the 17th century.71
The effects were stark. By the early 17th century no Spanish press used Greek characters – an extraordinary fact considering that just one century before the Universities of Alcalá and Salamanca had been centres of Hellenism.72 Such was the fear of science that in 1640 all the works of Copernicus were placed on its index of prohibited books by the Inquisition.73 The great works of literature acquired by Philip II and placed in the library of his funereal palace at the Escorial went unread, and were in fact left uncatalogued until the beginning of the 19th century, when the work was undertaken by a Frenchman.74
Henceforth, erudition and reading were to be undertaken with caution. A new opponent was secured for the Inquisition which, in the 18th century in particular, became the major preoccupation of the institution: the book. As one inquisitor put it in the late 16th century: ‘the truth is that the [doctrine of the heretics] is nowhere so much communicated and distributed as through the medium of books, which, as mute teachers, talk continuously; they teach all the time, and in all places . . . the typical adversary and enemy of the Catholic faith has always relied on this efficient and pernicious medium’.75
In such an atmosphere books were as worthy of condemnation as people and were burnt before the people together with heretics at autos.76 In 1579 the inquisitor-general of Portugal ordered that they should be incinerated until not even the ashes remained.77 But of course writers and thinkers were not above satirizing such events. Cervantes included a scene mocking the burning of books at an auto in Don Quixote, where the books of chivalry which the poor deluded knight had amassed were, as Cervantes put it, ‘relaxed’ by the secular arm of his housekeeper – thrown onto a bonfire in the courtyard to keep Don Quixote from reading any more of them.
The burning of the books in Don Quixote was a forerunner of other such literary scenes of which the most famous today is perhaps the scene in Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose where the blind friar of a Benedictine monastery, Jorge, burns down a secret stash of priceless books rather than seeing their heresies spread. Ideas are dangerous. Like viruses they can be contagious. They must be stamped out. A future vision of the same concern was brilliantly imagined by Ray Bradbury in his novel Fahrenheit 451,memorably adapted for the cinema by the French director François Truffaut. In Bradbury’s vision books are too dangerous for the population and are held to breed elitism and divergence from the accepted norms of society; 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which the paper used to bind books catches fire, and firemen no longer put out house fires but burn books. Thus is a security cordon erected against ideas which might, it is feared, destroy the state, a security cordon that was first erected by the Inquisition.
IT IS NOT AN INSIGNIFICANT comment on the human condition that, no sooner had the printing press been developed in the late 15th century, than people tried to censor what could be printed. It turns out that there is always a side of humanity – the side in authority – which fears the products of human creativity and tries to suppress them.
In Spain the potential of books to threaten the national identity became apparent during the early conflicts with the Muslims in Granada. Cisneros’s ceremonial burning of thousands of Islamic books in Granada in 1501 was followed by an edict issued on 12 October of the same year ordering the burning of all Islamic books ‘so that there should be no memory of them and no one should have the occasion to err in their faith again’.78 The potential danger of books clearly penetrated the royal consciousness for the following year, on 8 July 1502, the Reyes Católicos passed a law that no printer or bookseller could publish without their royal permission.79
It did not take long for the Inquisition to become involved in censorship. In 1505 Inquisitor-General Diego de Deza attempted to prohibit a book by the grammatical scholar Antonio de Nebrija on the Bible80 even though the book had not yet been completed.81Deza fell from grace after the Lucero affair, and his successor Cardinal Cisneros allowed the book to be published. Nonetheless, a precedent had been set.
By the 1520s the inquisitorial machine was beginning to investigate books as they entered Spain, and when in 1523 one French ship was found to have a small crate of Lutheran books, sixteen places were visited over the region of Guipuzcoa (the Basque country) to ensure that they had not become dispersed.82 By the 1530s bookshops were being visited all over Aragon, and the association of the Inquisition with censorship had become irreversible.83
The instructions set out for visiting bookshops in the search for banned books were precise. First, the inquisitorial functionary was to order the shop to close and ask the owner for a list of all the books that he had – which the owner was obliged to keep. Then the functionary had to ask if there were any books which needed to be added to the list. Then the functionary was to check the list and see if any were from the latest catalogue of banned books. Finally the functionary had to check all the books on the shelves and cross them off against the owner’s list. Ideally, the rules of operation suggested, visits should be made early in the morning so as not to damage trade.84
Booksellers are not today thought of as great adventurers, but in this era in Iberia this is what they were. One does not imagine such shops, filled with ponderous books accumulating dust, as owned by risk-takers, yet this was the reality. One can imagine the booksellers being torn between the demands of the Inquisition and the fact that banned books gave them the greatest profits. Thus while the bureaucracy clamped down on seditious ideas in another way it encouraged them.
The hazards which daily afflicted booksellers were many; books were frequently impounded, threatening them with bankruptcy. In the late 16th century Vicencio Millis, a bookseller from the market town of Medina del Campo, appealed to the inquisitorial authorities. His father Jacob had sent him thirty-three bundles of books from Lyon in France which had been impounded at the port in Bilbao to be inspected. This process was taking so long that Millis wrote to ask that the inspection occur in Medina del Campo instead, so that at least he could sell the ones which were passed fit for the general public.85
It is true that, from their own perspective, the Inquisition had much to dislike about some of these books. Heretics were also adopting wily ruses to get their seditious – and salacious – material into Spain, including in 1604 offering inquisitorial functionaries afternoon tea when they went to inspect their ships in port for banned books.86 Sometimes they printed heretical books with the names of printers based in Catholic cities and sent them to their allies in Spain to smuggle in through Seville concealed within orthodox and decent books which aroused no suspicion.87
The reality was that a country with such a lengthy coastline could never be proof against this invasion of foreign books and ideas. One man was found with 250 prohibited works in his library in 1651.88 Books could be smuggled over the passes of the Pyrenees, or concealed in clothes, trunks and hidden compartments in ships. They could be rowed ashore by starlight outside the major ports and then never seen again. There was a constant demand for them since as the cliche so accurately puts it, nothing excites so much as prohibition.
But while censorship could not prevent ideas from entering Spain, it could limit them to a very small section of society and act as a declaration of intent in which learning and innovative scientific thought were frowned upon; and this, was indeed precisely the effect of the first indexes of censorship.
LIKE A STUBBORN BACKACHE which refuses to disappear whatever position one adopts, we find ourselves back with an old foe, Inquisitor-General of Spain Fernando de Valdés. This is, we should recall, the same Valdés who destroyed his rival Archbishop Carranzaof Toledo, expanded the scope of the Inquisition from conversos and moriscos to the Old Christian population, and reorganized the administrative structure of the Inquisition so that familiars were found in every small town across Spain. With his unequalled genius for administering persecution and repression, it was Valdés who presided over the creation of the first genuinely wide-ranging Spanish index of censorship in 1559 – at the height of his campaign to snare Archbishop Carranza.
Given all the cases we have seen of family members and friends denouncing one another, it should not surprise us that again personal enmity should have had such a decisive influence on the subsequent cultural history of Spain. The 1559 index was developed precisely as a means of discrediting Carranza’s Catechism, one of the main thrusts of the investigation against him.*7
In February 1559 under Valdés’s leadership the Suprema ordered that all works in Spain dealing with the Bible which had been published in vernacular languages outside the country should be seized, adding in a letter to the Inquisition in Seville that commentaries on Carranza’s Catechism should be confiscated, and that ‘in order for it not to appear that only this book is being examined [i.e., it was precisely only this book which was of interest], it would be good to publish edicts ordering the seizure of all books written in the vernacular dealing with Christian doctrine’.89 Matters moved swiftly, and by 20 March the Suprema was already talking of a ‘catalogue of books’ to be printed ‘as soon as possible’. Eventually, publication came in August 1559, the very same month that Car-ranza was arrested.
It is true that there were precedents for this move by Valdés. Prior to this first index, lists of suspect books had been published by the Inquisition in 1540 and 154590 and prohibitions of Lutheran books stretched back to 1521.91 The first full index had been published in 1551, but there was nothing distinctively Spanish about it, as it reproduced a list published in Louvain (in modern Belgium – then under the control of Charles V) in 1550.92
What was different about Valdés’s 1559 index was that, in the midst of the persecution of the Lutheran threat in Valladolid and Seville and the pursuit of Carranza, with threats supposedly looming on all fronts, the opportunity was taken to ban not only religious books but works of all genres. The novels of Bocaccio appeared on the list, together with the picaresque novel Lazarillo de Tormes and other works by some of the most important writers of the early 16th century.93 For the first time, censorship was expanding from the religious sphere.
It would however be a mistake to pretend that Valdés and Spain were acting in isolation. The first papal index of banned books had been issued by Pope Paul IV in 1557, as a result of discussions at the Council of Trent94 and Portuguese indexes had been issued in 1547 and 1551.95 Valdés also operated with complete royal approval, since in 1554 the Council of Castile had been made the sole authority to issue licences to print books,96 and in 1558 Philip II had published a law prohibiting all booksellers from selling or possessing any book banned by the Inquisition on pain of death, and banning the possession of books written in the vernacular and published outside Spain without royal licence.97 Knowledge had become a commodity to be monitored.
Valdés, as might be expected, did not rest with the establishment of the index. Censorship itself was centralized; the Suprema ordered at the height of the Carranza case that nothing could be censored without its approval.98 From 1558 onward printers were supposed to be visited once every four months, and sometimes the production of suspect works was suspended.99 A royal decree of 1558 imposed for the first time systematic control on the import of books, and a further thirty-three royal letters were written on the subject through to 1612.100 Increasing numbers of calificadores were appointed, religious people in each district of the Inquisition who were sent books to read and approve or censor for orthodox eyes.101 If the physical purity of the nation was increasingly bound up with ideas of blood, its mental purity was associated with preventing corruption by ‘impure’ ideas.
Just as the association of knowledge with heresy discouraged people from taking to learning, so this ‘trial of the book’ also had enormous effects on society. By the 1560s, just a few suspect lines were enough for a book to be banned; a work by Carranza’s lawyer Dr Navarro was denounced in 1572 simply for having a few words in favour of the archbishop.102 The number of books prohibited swelled like a cancer, from 699 under Valdés in 1559 to 2,315 under Inquisitor-General Quiroga in the index published in 1583. In this Great Index of Prohibitions*8 books by Abelard, Dante, Machiavelli, More, Rabelais and Vives were banned, together with everything ever translated from Erasmus into Spanish and twenty-two of his works in Latin, and classical authors including Herodotus, Tacitus, Plato, Pliny and Ovid. Prohibition was extended to images, coins, portraits, medals, songs and statues.103
The poor inquisitorial staff! How was it possible to contend with a world in which so much heretical material was to hand? One went into a neighbour’s house and saw a blasphemous image on a medal. One tried to ignore it, and began to study a book for some peace of mind only to be outraged by a statement betraying a lack of orthodoxy. Closing one’s eyes to the sins of the world, one heard blasphemies in the siren-like voices of a choir. The four calificadores of Cordoba wrote to the Suprema in 1584 that there were so many books on the list that they would never finish their task of censorship if they were not provided with reinforcements.104
This was a society in which to be orthodox was to be perennially hot under the collar. The potential for outrage grew all the time, with the gargantuan appetite of the publishing industry. In 1559 the index of prohibited books was fifty-nine octavo pages*9 in length; the indexes of 1707 and 1747 would be over 1,000 pages in folio.105 *10 It was increasingly possible to feel scandalized and affronted, as the vituperative letters of the calificadores made clear: such-and-such a passage was escandaloso (underlined – scandalous), malsonante (underlined – sounded bad), perjudicial a la fe (underlined – prejudicial to the faith).
The willingness to be offended and to react with violence is a typical expression of a victim mentality. The Inquisition had created a world view that felt under siege and therefore felt justified in its persecutions. But the siege was laid more by internal repressions than by the deeds of enemies.
WHAT OCCURRED IN SPAIN did not occur in inquisitorial isolation. In Portugal censorship commenced in an organized fashion as soon as the Inquisition was launched there in 1536. By 1539 books had to be approved by the Inquisition to be published, and in 1540 Cardinal Henry delegated censorship to three Dominican friars.106 It was not only published books that were censored; works were subject to preventive censorship – submitted for approval before publication and amended accordingly.107
By the last quarter of the 16th century censorship in Portugal was well established. Every book had to be approved by the General Council of the Inquisition, local religious figures where the book was published, and by the palace authorities (Desembargo do Paço).108 By 1581 lascivious books and comedies and plays in which religious people were portrayed were banned.109 Among the books confiscated in a sudden visit to bookshops in 1606 were La Celestina and Don Quixote.110
In the New World all works of the imagination and profane books and theatre were banned throughout the colonial period.111 Ports were checked everywhere, with regular inspections of ships even in remote districts such as Guatemala.112 With such a vast remit censorship was in many ways harsher than in Spain.113 As soon as ships docked in Mexico near Veracruz, inquisitorial commissaries inspected the luggage of all passengers and sailors for books, making an inventory and sending it to the customs house for clearance.114 Foreign printers were prosecuted, and the majority of correspondence between the tribunal in Mexico City and regional commissaries related to the book trade.115 In 1690 the number of inquisitorial visits to English ships to search for banned books was such that the English ambassador in Mexico City complained to the Inquisition.116
It is of course a mistake to pretend that censorship was exclusively an Iberian phenomenon. Louis XV of France (1715–74) threatened authors and printers of seditious books with death117 while 294 books were prohibited in Britain between 1524 and 1683.118Yet when one compares this number to the 2,315 banned in the 1583 Spanish index alone, it becomes apparent that censorship in Iberia was of a different order to that elsewhere. It may not always have been effective, and banned books did seep in little by little, but the ideology behind it created an atmosphere in which many types of learning became suspect. Perhaps even more damaging than official censorship was the self-censorship which such a climate fostered, as people feared being cast adrift if they strayed from the prevailing ideology. Thus from small beginnings and individual bans did an entire world of ideas fall into inertia. A permanent sense of insecurity among intellectuals was created which meant that there was a fear of new ideas and discoveries.119 Intellectual activity was turned into the mere repetition of pre-established schemas, and Iberian intellectual life fossilized,120 becoming a mirror of the economic and political paralysis which took over from the 17th century onward.
This curious and sad history is difficult to imagine among the archives of Portugal and Spain, with their venerable tomes and lovingly preserved documents. Yet occasionally, if one looks hard enough, the legacy is there. In Lisbon one venue for my research was the archive of the palace of Ajuda, set on a high promontory above the estuary of the Tejo and the tower at Belén. The dirty cobbles of the streets below were more reminiscent of working-class districts in Montevideo or Santiago de Chile than a European city, and the palace itself was an anomaly; for above the workaday difficulties and sacrifices of one of the poorer cities of Europe were pendulous halls of marble, with shelves reaching like Towers of Babel into the architraves, stacked with books almost as high and as thick as a person.
In the palace of Ajuda one can sit surrounded by copies of Mercator, ancient globes, dust and silence. Here, at least, books are valued and preserved. But in the excessive respect accorded to them is a hint of the polarities of previous centuries, where elites had had access to forbidden knowledge while the rest of the population was deliberately denied it.
Cartagena de las Indias 1634
SOMETHING OF THE UNUSUAL moral compass which the Inquisition developed under the twin impulses of expansion and fear of knowledge coalesced in a remarkable case in Cartagena, Colombia in 1634. The ship Nuestra Señora de Monserrate arrived in port from Cacheu in Guinea-Bissau, captained by one Diogo Barassa, with over 300 contraband slaves hidden under the poop deck, who had lived in appalling conditions throughout the forty days of the voyage from Africa.121
Arriving on 30 July, the ship was visited by the inquisitorial secretary, who was concerned to see if any banned books were on board. The conditions on such ships were described in graphic detail during a subsequent visit the same year to a different ship, this time from Angola. On that occasion the secretary wrote,
There were a large number of male and female blacks hidden behind some grass mats which covered them. They were so crammed in and piled on top of one another that it was only with extreme difficulty that I managed to pass the entrance and go into the space beneath the poop deck, and even then it was impossible for me to get more than halfway in since the blacks were so closely knit. The heat was so immense that I could not bear it and so I turned back and made two sailors from the ship go forward with lit candles between the blacks. There seemed to be more than 400 of them hidden there.122
On the Nuestra Señora de Montserrate from Cacheu the inquisitorial secretary proceeded to make a thorough examination. However, he found no books prohibited by the Inquisition and so was content to finish the visit without taking any action.123 Prohibited books might have been anathema to the Inquisition, but the appalling conditions of the contraband slaves did not on this occasion even rate a mention by the inquisitorial flunkey. Theologically, the inaction of the official was justified, since the papacy had granted some moral legitimacy to the slave trade as a mode of saving souls. Perhaps, indeed, the more souls squeezed into those putrid sanctuaries of rotting wood rolling across the ocean, the better. But this surely reveals to us only that no dogma is godlike enough to warrant our unflinching approval.
It was of course a different vein of this very same dogma which led to the attempt to bar certain types of literary production from Iberian society. As we saw above, by 1583 many great authors had been banned, including Dante, Erasmus, Thomas More and Ovid. Although inquisitors were more interested in theology than works of literature124 the greats continued to be excluded. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries there were repeated complaints about the impossibility of getting hold of Machiavelli in Spain,125 and in 1659–60 a protracted debate began in Zaragoza and Madrid regarding Bartolomé de las Casas.
Las Casas’ Brief History of the Destruction of the Indies is today recognized as one of the classic historical texts dealing with the Spanish discovery of America, but things were seen very differently in the 17th century. In 1659 the first person to propose censoring this work, the Jesuit Francisco Minguijon, did so saying that these ‘injurious tales to the Spanish nation should be seized . . . even if they are true’.126 The following year five Franciscan friars agreed, saying that the book was ‘for the most part a defamatory libel against the Spaniards, injurious, pernicious, and denigratory, and an excuse for foreign nations to hate and abominate the Spaniards, which is enough to make it scandalous’.127 As another calificador put it, as ‘the excesses have been remedied . . . it should be prohibited and it falls within law 16 of the expurgatory index of 1640 which deals with words and clauses which detract from the reputation of neighbours’.128
In such an ideology truth no longer mattered; the appearance of truth was everything. Literature, though it remained the province of culture, was produced in the awareness that it did not escape the eyes of the censors. La Celestina – banned much earlier in Portugal – was expurgated many times before being banned in Spain in 1793, three years after the prohibition of all Montaigne’s essays.129 The entire works of Rabelais were banned in Spain in 1667, including the book for which he is now best remembered,Gargantua and Pantagruel.130
As the Enlightenment – and the Inquisition’s reaction against it – proceeded in the 18th century, so did the number of banned books. Authors banned included Condorcet, Hume, Locke, Montesquieu, Pope, Rousseau, Swift and Voltaire; Laurence Sterne wasbanned in 1801 and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – surely too close to the bone – followed in 1806.131 In the bookshop of Estanislao de Lugo, raided in 1817, books seized included works by Berkeley (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,now seen as a key work of philosophy), Erasmus, Gibbon, Locke, Milton (Paradise Lost), Montesquieu, Rabelais, Rousseau and Voltaire.132
By any modern standard, these authors rank among the towering figures of Western literature and philosophy; the Inquisition wanted nothing to do with them.
AS WE HAVE SEEN in the last few chapters, it was the social effects of the Inquisition which became most pronounced in the 17th century. As the global influence of the Spanish and Portuguese empires diminished, so did the physical reach of the Inquisition and its capacity to inflict its violence. This reminds us that the Inquisition was essentially a political institution, and that, as we have also seen, Catholic theology and papal authority merely served the authorities as an excuse and a justification.
In Portugal in the later 17th century, for instance, the papacy was once again a restraining influence. When, in July 1672, some of Lisbon’s wealthiest conversos were arrested, the papacy eventually issued an ultimatum to the regent Dom Pedro demanding an inquiry into the trials and threatening suspension of the Inquisition.133 Around this time an anonymous account was circulating in Rome of the terrible practices of the Portuguese Inquisition. Little had changed since the early days of the institution: there was still routine torture; lawyers were not allowed to see the evidence against defendants; the most genuine Catholics were most likely to be condemned. When the executioner at an auto in Coimbra was forced by the struggles of his victim to slacken the rope a little, the dying man cried out, ‘Jesus!’134
In Spain, meanwhile, the emphasis on pomp and ceremony at autos meant that these were rarer, but they tended to be violent affairs when they did occur. A legacy of the union with Portugal was the association of all Portuguese with crypto-Judaism,*11 with the result that numerous Portuguese victims were convicted of this crime through to the 18th century. In Majorca a terrible series of trials unfolded against the converso community of Palma which resulted in the reconciliation of 250 conversos at five autos in 1679 and the ‘relaxation’ of thirty-seven of these for relapsing in an auto of 1691.135 In Madrid, meanwhile, one of the greatest autos in the history of the Inquisition occurred in 1680, when twenty-three people were ‘relaxed’ on a stage 58 metres long and 30 metres side dominating the Plaza Mayor in the centre of the city.136
This auto occurred almost exactly two centuries after the first auto in Seville in 1481 and showed that even though people were no longer burnt and garrotted every year, the Inquisition could still descend with fury on communities when it wished to. It is difficult today beneath the brightly painted balconies of the Plaza Mayor to imagine such a terrible scene, but memories of horror and brutality fade quickly; it is only in their social legacies that something of the cultural memory of fear can be discerned.
What comes across most of all, perhaps, is the joylessness of it all. Pleasure was anathema to the censors. Some paintings and playing cards were banned from the mid-17th century onward for their offence to dogmatic morality.137 By the end of the 18th century complaints were being received about the words of hymns sung in church.138 Some of the works of Goya were banned.139 It was possible to object to any aspect of cultural endeavour: literature and philosophy, song and craft, painting and theatre. The ideology behind this process drove the decline of the Iberian powers in two key ways: first by helping to foster an ideology – scepticism – which would deal a mortal blow to the Inquisition during the Enlightenment, and second by helping to ensure the intellectual stagnation of the culture from which the Inquisition had grown, rendering it incapable of dealing with this threat when it emerged in the 18th century.
Other societies in other times and places have exhibited some of these tendencies. But the Inquisition was the first to leave detailed records of its road to self-inflicted ruin. In its painstakingly recorded loss was indeed a tragedy, for here lay all the debris of that emotion which can drive some human beings to destroy the very things that sustain them.